JNT Dialogue 2019

March 28, 2019
Mckenny Ballroom
Eastern Michigan University
6:30 pm

Featuring Jodi A. Byrd and Shailja Patel


Jodi A. Byrd is Associate Professor of English and Women’s and Gender Studies at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Her research interests and areas of expertise include American Indian studies, gender/sexuality studies, post-colonial studies, science, technology, and digital media. Her first book The Transit of Empire: Indigenous Critiques of Colonialism (U of Minnesota, 2011) explores how indigeneity functions as transit, a trajectory of movement that serves as precedent within U.S. imperial history. Byrd argues that contemporary U.S. empire expands itself through a transferable “Indianness” that facilitates acquisitions of lands, territories, and resources. Examining an array of literary texts, historical moments, and pending legislations—from the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma’s vote in 2007 to expel Cherokee Freedmen to the Native Hawaiian Government Reorganization bill—Byrd demonstrates that inclusion into the multicultural cosmopole does not end colonialism as it is purported to do. Rather, that inclusion is the very site of the colonization that feeds U.S. empire. Byrd contends that the colonization of American Indian and indigenous nations is the necessary ground from which to reimagine a future where the losses of indigenous peoples are not only visible and, in turn, grievable, but where indigenous peoples have agency to transform life on their own lands and on their own terms. Byrd is currently working on a book project entitled Indigenomicon: American Indians, Videogames, and the Structures of Genre.

Shailja Patel is an internationally acclaimed Kenyan poet, playwright, theatre artist, and political activist. She divides her time between Nairobi, Kenya, and Johannesburg, South Africa, and is a founding member of Kenyans For Peace, Truth and Justice, a civil society coalition that works for an equitable democracy in Kenya. Patel's poetry, performance art, and essays center on the themes of empire, migration, globalization, colonialism, women, and South Asian diasporas in East Africa. Her book Migritude (Kaya Press, 2010), based on her spoken-word performance piece of the same name, is a hybrid text, part poetic memoir, part political history, which weaves together family history, reportage and monologue to create a portrait of women's lives and migrant journeys undertaken under the boot print of Empire. According to Patel, the word “Migritude” is “a play on Negritude and Migrant Attitude. It asserts the dignity of outsider status. Migritude celebrates and revalorizes immigrant/diasporic culture. It captures the unique political and cultural space occupied by migrants who refuse to choose between identities of origin and identities of assimilation, who channel difference as a source of power rather than conceal or erase it” (Black Looks interview). Patel has also authored two collections of poetry, Dreaming in Gujarati (2000) and Shilling Love (2002).

Join us on Thursday, March 28 from 4:30pm to 6:30pm in Mckenny Ballroom of the EMU Student Center for light refreshments and an informal conversation with our featured speakers.

Previous JNT Dialogue events include:

2018 - "Environmental Futures" with speakers Ursula Heise and Rob Nixon

2017 - "Temporalities of Crisis and Condition" with speakers Lisa Lowe and Mimi Thi Nguyen

2016 - Homi K. Bhabha and Claudia Rankine

2015 - "After Post-Structuralism?" with speakers Nancy Armstrong and Jonathon Elmer

2014 - "Thinking Bodies" with speakers Laura Otis and Jay Clayton.

2013 --"The Queer Commons" with speakers José Esteban Muñoz and Samuel Ray Delany, Jr.

2012 -"Nonhumans: Ecology, Ethics, Objects" with speakers Jeffrey J. Cohen and Timothy Morton

2011 - "Failing to be Subjects: On Queerness and Negativity" with speakers Lauren Berlant and Jack Judith Halberstam

2010 - "Globalization Now: Flows and Limits" with speakers Crystal Bartolovich and Paul Smith